My life is role playing.
Think about the roles you play. For me, the title roles are wife, journalist, aunt/sister/daughter, housekeeper, pet owner, writer. Each comes with its own responsibilities and duties.
Notice how writer fell at the end of the list. That’s how my writing role has felt lately – pushed to the background.
Notice how I also said each role comes with responsibilities and duties. Yes, to be a writer means you are duty-bound to produce something. That is as much a responsibility as spending time with family, taking out the trash, feeding the cat, and going to work.
Unfortunately, that’s not how writing gets treated by many writers. It’s considered a hobby, nothing more than a bonus if there are 15 minutes free to pound out a couple paragraphs on the keyboard.
This month marks the turning over of a new page for me, though. Writing will be a priority. I have put my foot down on that.
And boy oh boy, did I stub my toe when I put my foot down. Because let me tell you, it’s hard to make that commitment.
Serious writers know this already. Obstacles galore want to stand between you and the laptop. (Quite literally, in the case of Webster, the 18-pound purring machine who likes to wedge himself between me and the keyboard because heaven forbid I pay attention to something other than him for five minutes.)
Aside from oversized house cats, serious writers know the many other distractions and excuses that arise. I am, of course, the Queen of Excuses.
Let it be noted, if you are a loyal subject in my Kingdom of Excuses, I hereby banish you.
“But how do I proceed without excuses?” you might ask.
Here are some tips on the top excuses I’ve encountered and ways to combat them:
- I just don’t have time. Really? You don’t? Neither do I. Nor does any writer with full-time jobs and family commitments. You’ve heard it before, so I’ll say it again. Make time. Buy a voice recorder and talk out your ideas in the car. Save your novel on a flash drive or online so you can access it wherever there is a computer to write. Lock yourself in a room and nail a sign to the door saying, “Abandon all hope ye who enter here” and warn your family to stay out or else [insert horrific form of torture here]. Your day is busy. If you’re serious about writing, it’s about to get a whole lot busier. Even if it means giving up the hour you devote to your favorite TV show – catch it online later and get crackin’ on the keyboard for now.
- I’m out of ideas. Here is Part 1 of my two-part philosophy on inspiration: Write when you’re inspired. If you’re not near your novel, kick down doors, leap tall buildings and outrun speeding commuter trains to jot down your ideas. If you’re at work, take a bathroom break with a pen and notebook and quickly jot down your brilliant idea before you forget, then type it up as soon as you get home. Here is Part 2 of my philosophy: Write when you’re not inspired. It’s hard, and it’s agonizing, and it’s downright infuriating sometimes. You may end up writing 1,000 words you’ll throw out and never use again. Or you may end up finding inspiration along the way. The point is to write daily. Be consistent, even if you’re not in the mood to write. Take it from Brian A. Klems, online editor for Writer’s Digest magazine: “If you can’t carve out at least a short portion of your day to dedicate to writing, then you aren’t serious about finishing a manuscript.”
- I seriously cannot concentrate on this project today. That’s OK. Sometimes it’s good to take a break from your book or writing project. But don’t let the day get away without writing. Try your hand at a poem, or a short story, or just write little snippets of observations. Crank out a few writing exercises. Or go back and touch up sections you already have flagged as weak – make the dialogue more believable, slash out the overabundance of adjectives, cut a scene or two. Even if you’re not writing a fresh, brand new scene for your book, give your writing muscles a workout. Don’t let them atrophy from neglect.
- They gave me a guilt trip. If you’ve ever tried to turn down an invitation by saying, “Sorry, I need to get some writing done today,” you’re bound to get this reply at some point: “Fine. It’s nice to know your book is more important than I am.” The variations of guilt trips are endless. “You work on your book every day, but the last time we hung out was two weeks ago. Can’t you skip it for just one day?” It takes some juggling to give everyone – and everything – equal attention as a writer. Try explaining the book isn’t more important; however, it is very important to you, and you hope everyone will understand and support you as you work on undertaking the task. (That said, don’t hermit away and become a crazed, antisocial cat lady glued to the computer screen day and night.) It’s all about a healthy balance.Don’t let anyone talk you out of writing by making you feel guilty for it. One way around that is to set a specific hour as your writing time and let everyone know it. Then if they try to drag you away, say, “Don’t forget, 5 to 6 p.m. is my writing time. I’m free any time after 6, but not a minute before.”
- I just don’t feel like it. I don’t always feel like going to work, doing laundry, or emptying the litter box. I still do those things because I need a paycheck, clean underwear, and a carpet without cat urine stains. Not feeling like writing is not an excuse. You still have to do it for the sake of having a completed manuscript. Like I said, don’t let anyone – not even yourself – talk you out of writing.
Want to be a serious writer? When you play that role, don’t let it be a game anymore. Make it a necessary part of your life. And enjoy watching the words flow.